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How to Man Up–All in a Spray Can

January 31, 2010
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Finally, mothers of sons get some answers, and ‘tween boys get some deserved attention. A fascinating article in today’s Times illuminates the perils of tweenhood and teenhood–boystyle. I have long recognized in my own sons’ paths to adulthood the pressures and high degree of conformity  in the culture of boys, necessary to be popular, or fit in, or hey, just not get ostracized.  Do you know what it takes for a boy to be popular  (before you have to deal with being popular with girls)? Here are the top three on the hit parade:

  1. Being tall.  My sons had about a snowball’s chance in hell of that with me as their mother (as their pediatrician always affirmed when she looked at their low numbers on the growth chart).
  2. If you can’t be tall–be good at sports. Hmmm–also not something every boy has the knack for.
  3. But if you can’t be tall or good at sports, have a great sense of humor.  Finally, something you can kind of control and develop.

So childhood is hard enough. Then there’s adolescence (and the tween years). Boys are at a pitiful disadvantage compared to the girls who hit puberty earlier. While we think guys are  ascendant  in society–just go to a middle school dance to witness the anxiety-wrought spectacle of girls looming over the boys, to understand the underlying origin and vulnerability of machismo. So to the boys’ rescue and promises of increased masculinity comes Axe.

One of my sons filmed a spoof on Axe when he was in middle school. Then he started wearing it. He commented on today’s article about the use of sprays and products, which are now marketed to boys in their early teens.  He told me that he didn’t realize how subtly yet pervasively he’d been “marketed”  on you-tube and on the pop-up media ads, all of which occurred under the radar of our adult noses.

So boys (join the girls) in the limelight of pressure to look good, be cool, conform to some absurd ideal  gender standard. To all those who think it’s easier to raise boys, I say–just different.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 1, 2010 1:59 pm

    Seems to me that the definition of cool has changed over the years but the pressure to conform remains. For my kids it was attire and the auto that dropped them at school! Thanks for sharing. Dave

  2. February 1, 2010 2:01 pm

    Dave, thanks for your observation. I’m sure that for those who can afford attire & car, the pressure is upped. But hair and body products are within the reach of most teens and tweens, as the savvy marketing machine knows. Best, BH

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